Spatial Data and Working With Historical Maps Skills Assessment

What is Spatial History?

In their scholarly article titled “Traveling the Silk Road on a Virtual Globe” Pedagogy, Technology and Evaluation for Spatial History,” Ruth Mostern and Elana Gainor highlight that the genre of spatial history can be described as a “digital atlas,” which consists of a “multimedia project” that is built “based upon a mapping platform” that integrates “spatially referenced features with non-spatial resources,” (Mostern, R. et al., 2013). Some spatially referenced features on historical maps may include “pan-and-zoom controls,” which allows users to view the map in many different spatial scales, and “a time-slider for temporal scales,” (Mostern, R. et al., 2013). On the other hand, some non-spatial resources include images, videos, or hyperlinks that may be embedded on a historical map. Each historical, digital atlas map has its own unique topic or theme with similar spatial and temporal scales as those of hand-held, paper maps or atlases. The most advantageous element of “a digital atlas” however, “is that it is backed by a database holding all the geographical information, map layers, and other resources from many atlases, and the same content can be reused from multiple thematic maps” (Mostern, R. et al., 2013).

Geohumanities or spatial humanities is a field practiced by humanities scholars who utilize “methods from cultural geography and geographic information science,” and it involves “producing digital maps of historical phenomena and using them for analysis and communication” (Mostern, R. et al., 2013). Dr. Jo Guldi stresses in her blog titled, “The Spatial Turn in History,” that historical maps are useful to describe a nation as a landscape and to reflect “the process of historical change, such that the history of [a] nation,” for instance, “could be written” (Guldi, J.). Ultimately, Dr. Guldi adds, historical maps contribute “to persuading” audience members “that there was indeed a nation” that was “unified and monolithic,” for example (Guldi, J.).

Richard White points out in his article, “What is Spatial History?,” that “historians by definition focus on time,” and therefore, “chronology will always remain at the heart of a discipline that seeks to explain change over time” (White, R.). Thus, historical maps ultimately allow historians to make “comparison[s] between [the] seventeenth- and nineteenth-century England,” for example, “at great length, following country house, lane, and town through their transitions into the modern world” (Guldi, J.). Without digital historical maps, writing, explaining, and presenting historical spatial data would be made to be a much harder task to complete. However, thanks to websites like, Googles My Maps, and, we are able to access online digital tools to help build historical maps that portray extensive historical details, all the way down to distinct geographical features that were present during any particular time period in history.

Methods for Utilizing Spatial Data and Historical Maps

It is crucial to take spatial dimensions and data into consideration when presenting historical information. White provided “an early example” of “exceptional spatial history,” and argued that “historians still routinely write about political change, social change, class relations, gender relations, cultural change as if the spatial dimensions of these issue matter little if at all” (White, R.).

Spatial data can be represented by using a wide variety of methods, and many have already been constructed and presented to the public. Thus, there is “only limited critical and comparative evaluation” required to determine “what approaches are most appropriate for accomplishing [a] particular” project (Mostern, R. et al., 2013). Spatial data and historical maps give “representation[s] of the interrelation of time and space,” enabling our audience members to broaden their scope and understanding of a historical issue at hand (White, R.).

Example Historical Maps:

Figure 1: “Rates of Travel from New York City, 1830 and 1857” by Charles Paullin, 1932
Figure 2: “Comparing Layers”
Figure 3: “Absolute Space in Google Maps”

For My Final Project:

The map I want to include in my final project would be one that represents the interrelationship between time and the advancement of dental technology across many geographical regions, that has revolutionized the dental field. I feel like the best way I could portray the story of the evolution of dental technology is by using storymap. I feel like storymap would best portray my topic idea because it allows for one to present precise chronological events, and allows the audience to follow along with the map easily. Storymap will also allow my audience to engage with the website I build. I want my map to show how significant dental history truly is, in that knowledge in this profession spans out, globally, throughout centuries where new ideas are constantly being implemented in the discipline. I would like to focus on one dental instrument, the drill since it’s considered to be one of the many important tools utilized by dentists in modern practice. Some absolute space that I provided in my map includes data that ranges across the globe, depending on where the dental drill was first invented and used. Some non-absolute spatial data that I included were images and hyperlinks. Most of the data that I obtained is conceptual data regarding the invention of certain dental equipment and their uses, and how they are still prevelent in their most complex forms today, in this day in age. By utilizing storymap, my audience will be able to not only engage with the material presented but, they will also be able to ask questions about other dental equipment and how they have evolved, which they would then be able to find the answer to under another simple page that I build for my website.

Google Maps:




Guldi, J. The Spatial Turn in History. The University of Virginia Library. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

Mostern, R. and Gainor, E. (2013). Traveling the Silk Road on a Virtual Globe: Pedagogy, Technology and Evaluation for Spatial History. Digital Humanities Quarterly 7.2. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

White, R. (2010, February 01). What is Spatial History?. Stanford University Spatial History Project. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

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